The issue of Selective Mutism is that it is best treated when it is discovered early so that unhealthy social patterns of behaviour are not encouraged to continue. However sadly the issue is that so often diagnosis is illusive, even a challenge. The opportunities for diagnosis are many yet there is little if no awareness of the issue. Unlike many other disabilities that are easily diagnosed, the children who are suffering from Selective Mutism can be seen as obstinate, controlling and the worst parents are told that they will grow out of it. These statements could not be further from the truth. Yet Selective Mutism is a recognized mental illness in the DSM IV.
What are the barriers to diagnosis of Selective Mutism:
- Parents may be unaware of the issue because the children often speak quite freely in the presence of the parents.
- Professionals (and I use this term loosely) can often be distracted with other issues such as intellectual disability, autism, and many more other possible disabilities.
- The actual lack of speech
- The people who have the opportunity to raise concern such as Child Health Nurses, School Nurses, Speech Therapists and even family do not even know about SM. These people present a great opportunity for early intervention.
Awareness is raised in many ways the following steps are important:
- Educate yourself about Selective Mutism and how it effects your child (this is the most vital)
- Educate the therapists and those that work with your child, Speech Therapists, Doctor's Psychologists.
- Work with those who educate your child, inform them of the intrinsics of teaching a child with Selective Mutism. As well as the joys of teaching a child of SM, I was given some great advice to try and show the teachers the qualities and strengths of your child not just their SM.
- Share with other parents what Selective Mutism
- Be aware of other children who also could be struggling with Selective Mutism
- Prepare yourself with information that could be helpful for those who may request it, such as small documents or more thorough documents to assist those who may be in a position to help others that you are not in the position to help.
- Use other mediums such as the internet (blogs, facebook, twitter) to discuss the issues of Selective Mutism
- Whenever the opportunity rises contact Members of Parliament, people of influence to raise the need of services and awareness of Selective Mutism.
The biggest concern that I carry is that I was a parent who was able to advocate for my son, so that his hearing was tested that he accessed speech therapy and did everything that I could to find out what my son had, nobody could actually tell us what the problem was. How many parents are out there, that are in the same position but have not have the privilidge to know what their child may have. Anything that we do will make a difference, despite the difficulties that may come across never give up!